XIII: All the Things I'm Meant to Feel
Trigger Warning: This post contains content that references the themes of mental health, suicide, death, and dying, and may be emotionally challenging for some readers. Know that you are not alone and that resources are available through:
Talk Suicide Canada (1-833-456-4566, Hours: Available 24/7/365 for calls; 4 PM—12 AM ET for texts)
Kids Help Phone (Call 1-800-668-6868 or text 686868)
I love you, and I thank you for taking the time to read what I hope you find to be a very introspective and charming blog post. - Ra’anaa ♡
(lucky number 13) Where do I begin? Should I reminisce about growth and aging? Do I contemplate the next year to come? Or would you hate it horribly if I start with the festivities?
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday dear Ra’anaa
Happy Birthday to you…
Well to me. For you see dear reader, today is my 27th birthday. I can’t say what I imagined 27 would look like for me because, if I’m being completely honest it wasn’t one of the ages I dreamt a great deal about. 27 is one of those in between ages that there aren’t songs about. It’s not as fun as feeling 22, quite as “quarter centennial” as being 25, and nowhere near as highly anticipated as turning 30. No, the only thing I could ever think about being associated with this age is sadly the 27 Club.
Now, if you’re not familiar with it, the 27 Club is a group of celebrities who essentially all died before their time at the young age of 27. This was due to a series of reasons which I won’t quite get into, but nonetheless this infamous “club” includes the likes of many of the greats such as Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Mac Millar, Jimi Hendrix, and one of my artistic inspirations, Jean-Michel Basquiat. I lied to you before. There are in fact many songs associated with being 27, although nearly all, if not all of them, are references to the shortness of life and pay homage to the members of this infamous club. I’m not saying I’m famous or that I expect to die within the next 12 months of my life, although you never know. My point is, that there aren’t many positive things associated with being this age, so honestly leading up to it I was a little intimidated.
Based on my life thus I’ve had a series of realizations that prompted some Sherlock Holmes-level research. First, private therapy in Canada can cost anywhere between $50-$240. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) estimates that the annual economic cost of mental illness-related fees in Canada is over $50 billion. Bare with me as I drop some more truth bombs, but the average youth is able to access their parents’ insurance for the aforementioned resources until 21, or 25 if they are enrolled at a post-secondary institution (note that my information is based on me as an Ontario resident). Now, many people in their 20s are either working entry-or mid-level jobs in their field, many of which do not provide any or significant access to ample healthcare benefits. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that although schizophrenia can occur at any age, the average onset for AMAB (assigned male at birth) persons is late teens to early 20s and late 20s to early 30s for AFAB (assigned female at birth) persons. Likewise, John Hopkins Medicine says that AFAB persons are twice as likely to suffer from major depression than AMAB people, and the average age of onset is the mid-20s.
I apologize for the heavy truths I’ve laid at your feet as I’m sure you were expecting another introspective, yet charming birthday blog. Rest assured, that is where this is going, but first I had to lay some important foundation so you could see the value of my point. The point being, that being in your late-20s, which I have now entered, is statistically apparently the worst time of a person's, particularly AFAB people’s lives. I mean just according to health care professionals, and the Harvard Business Review who, I shit you not, released an article in 2016 titled, Why Your Late Twenties Is the Worst Time of Your Life. Believe me when I say that society says the odds are stacked against our late 20s for a series of reasons. So, whether it was mental health issues or quarter-ish life crises, know that these past couple of weeks I have had a lot of meaningful contemplation to undergo.
You see, as someone who has knowingly and unknowingly struggled with mental health issues my entire life, I was absolutely petrified to turn 27. In the grand scheme of things, there isn’t much of a difference between 26 and 27, but I found something about the stigma surrounding this age to be wholly unnerving. And so, being the horribly and yet awesomely Type A person that I am, I dedicated myself to rest, relaxation, and research, and would you believe I am the most at peace that I have ever been in my life? Now, I’m not saying you can just manifest away mental health issues. Know that I am on a strict therapy regime and have been medicated for quite some time, but I didn’t find just the combination of these things to work until I shifted my perspective and allowed myself to feel all the things I’m meant to feel.
Imagine this, you’re walking down the sidewalk and there are obstacles in your way. Maybe it’s a fallen post, a forgotten bike, a loose pylon or what have you. And you become used to bumping into them and dodging them like clockwork. Then, over time and as the city gets their shit together, they disappear, one by one. But still, you dodge those invisible items and trip on their long-gone shadows. This is how I’ve been living for the past several months. The sidewalk is my mind, spirit and soul. The obstacles, challenges and difficulties I’ve faced; fractured relationships, housing and financial issues, anxiety, depression, and so many other things. And the removal of these objects my therapy and medications. The dodging of the phantom objects is the muscle memory of not knowing how to move forward and holding onto all the things that aren’t there until you realize that the only thing holding you back, is you.
And so part of reminding myself how to walk down an empty sidewalk without flinching at what once was, was allowing myself to feel each of the moments that I’d worked so hard to suppress. And so I cried over the fallen sign, knowing that there was nothing I could do to pick it back up again. I became enraged at the forgotten bike knowing that someone somewhere had long forgotten where they left it. I feared the loose pylon, frightened of the potentially impending construction season. And slowly but surely the trips and falls faded, the hiccups didn’t last, and one day I walked down that sidewalk without hesitation.
I’m not one of those people to say “Turn the other cheek,” or “Just let it go.” But, what I will say is that sometimes we spend so much energy holding onto things that are long gone that we get needlessly weighed down, and before we realize it we’ve stopped moving forward in life. In an instant we’re stuck, stagnant, and hung up on the worst moments we’ve ever lived. And while these moments are important to the people that we become, I’d arguably say what’s more important are the ways in which we choose to acknowledge them and move along. Life doesn’t stop in these moments and neither should we.
One day that just clicked. Click. And in an instant, a weight that I’d been needlessly carrying around was lifted off my chest. For the first time in forever, I could breathe, and I felt and still feel liberated. I won’t lie, like many of you, I have bad days and worse days, but they’re less frequent. And somehow the good days feel better and brighter. Somehow life feels a little bit easier like I’ve unlocked a secret code that I’ve spent eons searching for. So, as I turn 27 instead of holding onto that fear and uncertainty, I’m holding onto happiness and love in all aspects of life. Aging is not something to fear, but rather something to relish in. Every year we are more knowledgeable, more empowered, and more liberated to live. Each year life gets sweeter and more spectacular and I intend to hold onto that. I’d like to leave you with a short incantation I wrote today during a spectacular and enlightening Black Arts Fellowship session with Mahlikah the Moonrise Poet, if by any chance you’re reading this Mahlikah, thank you, I really needed this.
We are tethered and connected
Emotionally, Physically, Spiritually
Our ancestors are the sun above
Pouring energy, glorious and glowing
Find comfort in identity, be rooted and proud
Our new wave, new age, next generation
Cheers and happy birthday to me,